Terrence Wilburn (left, in white) and another San Marcos player go for a loose ball during the Rattlers’ 35-14 loss at New Braunfels Canyon Friday night. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By BILL PETERSON
The high school football season took a bad turn Friday night for the San Marcos Rattlers, who fell to 0-2 in District 27-4A and already face a steep climb to the playoffs.
All the district teams that won last Friday won this Friday, which means the reverse also is true. Cibolo Steele, New Braunfels Canyon, Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy are all 2-0, tied for the four playoff spots up for grabs in the next five games. The Rattlers are joined by Seguin, Schertz Clemens and Boerne Champion at the 0-2 foot of that hill.
After the Rattlers lost, 35-14, Friday night at Canyon, the 2009 season uncannily resembles the 2008 season. Each included a non-district win against Lampasas and a non-district loss to a tough Waco school in Waco. Last year included a 27-26 win against Bastrop, while this year’s game looked even before it was rained out. Last year’s district season started with losses to Steele and Canyon, like this year. And, like last year, the Rattlers are staring down the barrel of Kerrville Tivy and Alamo Heights in the next two weeks, and both of those teams are 2-0 in the district, just like last year.
Last year ended badly for the Rattlers, who lost every district game, and their challenge now is to make sure that aspect of last season doesn’t repeat itself. It doesn’t have to, so long as the defense and kicking teams can tighten up enough to stop the big play and the offense can avoid turnovers.
“We’ve got to figure this thing out and keep fighting,” San Marcos coach Steve Van Nest said after his team fell to 1-3 overall. “We’ve got to keep our heads up and not let negativity creep in.”
The Rattlers outgained Canyon, 305 yards to 255, stuffing the Canyon ground attack with 39 yards in 18 carries. Canyon quarterback Lane Fife, running the new spread offense, didn’t set the stat sheet on fire, completing 15 of 27 passes for 216 yards, about his usual game this year. But Fife had never before thrown four touchdown passes, two of which availed themselves when Canyon receivers blew open against San Marcos defenders in the deep field.
The game really turned against the Rattlers on a very few isolated plays, enough to make three touchdowns worth of difference in a three touchdown game. But it also went against them the same way as last week against Steele, with a flurry of opponent touchdowns starting right around the first quarter turn.
The Rattlers couldn’t string together more than one first down in any of their first five possessions. Canyon was a little slower getting started, but scored on its third possession. Taking over at their own 41 with 3:41 left in the first quarter, the Cougars moved largely on two plays — a 33-yard pass from Fife to Bryce Dunman, and a pass interference penalty in the end zone against San Marcos, which placed the ball on the Rattlers eight. On the next play, Fife threw to Kyle Jenkins for a touchdown to make it 7-0.
San Marcos appeared to be in business early in the second period, when Dunman fumbled and Bob Eric Rodriguez recovered for the Rattlers at their own 48. But the Rattlers could only manage one first down before Canyon took over at its own 38. After a penalty against the Rattlers, Fife threw deep to Johnathan Higgerson, who ran wide open behind the San Marcos defense to catch the pass for a 42-yard touchdown.
Down 14-0, the Rattlers still appeared in a position to work back into the game. Three snaps after an 18-yard run by Kristian Cogdill put the Rattlers on their own 38, they faced third and one at the 47. Andre Ray carried for the necessary yardage, but dropped the ball and Ross Cleckler recovered for Canyon at his own 49.
Fife went 14 yards on a keeper, then threw 23 yards to Alex Lawrence, who was open on the right sideline all the way to the San Marcos six. On third and goal, Fife threw six yards to Donovan Wright for a touchdown to make it 21-0 as Canyon’s homecoming halftime was only 3:51 away.
San Marcos began to find offensive footing on the ensuing possession, marching from its own 23 to the Canyon 21 in 11 plays. But a penalty set the Rattlers back to the 26 with 11 seconds and no timeouts remaining, then quarterback Ryan Schweers’ pass went right into the numbers of Canyon’s Tylor Figol in front of the goal line. The interception put an end to the half with the Rattlers needing to make up three touchdowns.
The Rattlers made up one of those touchdowns on their second possession of the second half, driving 80 yards in 11 plays. Schweers’ 32-yard pass to Payton Pringle put the Rattlers on Canyon’s 26, then Mike Wilburn ran 12 yards to the 13. After Schweers covered 12 yards in two carries, Cogdill went the final yard for the touchdown, bringing the Rattlers within 21-7 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
But Canyon more or less broke the game very quickly. After a kick return placed the ball on the 50, Fife threw over the top of the San Marcos defense to Wright, who reeled it in for a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-7.
San Marcos made a bid late in the game, but Schweers was intercepted three yards deep in the Canyon end zone, again by Figol, who ran all the way to the other end for a touchdown to make it 35-7. Ray returned the ensuing kick to the Canyon six and Cogdill later banged in from a yard out with 2:03 left, bringing about the final score of 35-14.
Cogdill provided most of the offensive spark for San Marcos, taking the inside path to 139 yards in 18 carries. But the other 57 San Marcos snaps produced only 167 yards.
“That’s what we found that was working, and, unfortunately, that’s about all that was working,” Van Nest said of Cogdill’s work.
The Rattlers turned in the flat performance one might expect from a team that went without 12 starters at some point during the practice week due to illnesses. The offense was not especially sharp all night, and the defense often lost pass receivers.
“We had a bad week of practice,” Van Nest said. “We had a lot of kids out. We obviously weren’t ready to play … Obviously, we didn’t handle it as well as we could have.”
Illness or not, it gets no easier for the Rattlers next Friday against Kerrville Tivy at Bobcat Stadium. The Antlers don’t appear to be the offensive colossus they were last season, but they’ve begun the district season with wins of 28-13 against Boerne Champion and 31-14 against Seguin.Email | Print